Rubber Duckie

by John Goetz

Rubber Duckie, you’re the one,
You make bathtime lots of fun,
Rubber Duckie, I’m awfully fond of you;

Woo woo be doo

From the Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald:

NASA uses rubber ducks to fight global warming

September 23, 2008 – 10:27AM

Rubber ducks are the latest weapons in the fight against global warming, according to NASA.

NASA scientists have dropped 90 of the ducks into holes in the Jakobshavn glacier – Greenland’s fastest moving glacier – in a bid to understand why glaciers speed up in the summer in their march to the sea.

The toys have been labelled [sic] “science experiment” and “reward” in three languages, and carry an email address.

The ducks, if found by someone who emails NASA about their discovery, could tell scientists how melting water moves through ice, Alberto Behar of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, said.

“It’s a beautiful place to visit. You can watch these icebergs continuously march across and fall into the ocean,” Mr Behar said.

“Right now it’s not understood what causes the glaciers themselves to surge in the summer.”

That’s where the rubber ducks come in, along with a probe about the size of a football loaded with a GPS transmitter and instruments that can tell much about the glacier’s innards.

Mr Behar said he hoped a fisherman or hunter might find a duck or the probe but so far nothing had turned up.

Perhaps the reason glaciers “speed up in the summer” is because it is warmer in the summer and ice melts faster when it is warmer and water under ice helps reduce friction, thereby improving speed?

Just guessing.

54 thoughts on “Rubber Duckie

  1. Hey, that’s the way hockey skates work! They outta hit the rinks in Houston for research… less GHG generation that way instead of flying to the Far North…

  2. “Perhaps the reason glaciers “speed up in the summer” is because it is warmer in the summer and ice melts faster when it is warmer and water under ice helps reduce friction, thereby improving speed?”

    Yes, I think that is the crux of the hypothesis. But there are other possible mechanisms including increased hydrostatic pressure in a deformable till layer below the glacier if the glacier is of the warm bedded type with a till layer and not hard bedrock. In that model as melt increases water infiltrates the sub-glacial till and causes hydrostatic pressure to rise until the shear strength of the till is exceeded and the glacier surges forward. On a large scale, this happened during the last glacial period in places like North Dakota, see: https://www.dmr.nd.gov/ndgs//ndnotes/ndn11.htm

    I don’t know how rubber ducks help figure anything out, but if you read the second to last paragraph, they look to be a shot in the dark along with the real instrumentation.

  3. If any of those rubber duckies make it to the arctic, a polar bear could choke on one of them… that would truly be a calamity!

  4. 1. Won’t the ducks get crushed under the ice ? If it was all water, I would think the glacier would slide into the ocean rather quickly.

    2. Something like this happened a dozen or more years back in the Pacific. A cargo ship lost a container full of “bathtub” toys, ducks, frogs, etc. in a storm. About 28,000 of them. Some did make it ashore, even in the Atlantic. Took many years, and only a handful survived.

    90 doesn’t seem like enough. If they do make it out, what does it prove?

  5. Rocks get all ground up in glaciers. Those rubber duckies must be made of pretty tuff plastic. Maybe some scientist was impressed by the child-proof toughness of the rubber ducky he had at home and thought, “If that damn yellow duck can withstand my kid’s attempt to bite it in half, by gawd it can handle melting ice”. Next stop to rubber ducky fame: Shark beacons.

  6. Your tax dollars hard at work. I wonder how many millions were frittered away on yet another AGW boondoggle.

  7. The comments here seem to show that a lot of people have already made up their minds that AGW is a crock. Such a prejudging doesn’t sound like a very effective way to find the truth out about anything, really.

    Let’s repeat – AGW is not proven, neither are its purported effects. That does not mean that nothing bad will happen, it just means it’s not proven – or maybe even provable.

    Regard your own fear about the future and its effect on public policy sometime. That’s something we can theoretically change more easily.

  8. Off topic but not really.Over at accuweather weather site on global warming today 09-24-2008 the headline says Antartic ice increase is a side effect of global warming. There people have lost it and will blame any weather occurance that happens in the future on global warming.

  9. No expense spared then? Perhaps they’re already feeling the pinch of budgetary cuts!

    I always thought that if bits keep breaking off a glacia into the sea it was because it was growing, not melting.

    OT. The NASA news release about the lack of solar activity was amazing from what’s been said so far. The almost non-plussed remarks about not being “Climate Experts” is worrying, are these guys not astrophysisists. They ought to take a leaf from a political drama on British tv some years ago now, when some adverse or potentially dodgy/risky/controversial remark was made about the “leader”, the lead character would say (barely concealing the sarcasm,) ” you might think that, I couldn’t possibly comment!” Leaving one in no doubt of the lead character’s opinion.

  10. [Hansen is not connected to this project, nor would he likely ever be. Thus let’s leave speculation like this out of the discussion please. – Anthony]

  11. Kermitt the frog was last seen heading north to save some rubber ducks from freezing to death.
    P.S. any contributins to help Kermitt to pay for his trip can be sent to>>…..

  12. They have to keep pushing this theme at least until the next US elections in November. Then once they get their people elected, global cooling will show how “successful” their policies are.

  13. Couldn’t they just put a few GPS devices in crush proof containers? Then they could track them in real time. Also, those ducks better be biodegradable, just like the real thing. There’s already too much rubber duckie pollution.

  14. With the sun being higher in the sky, would there be any change in tidal forces that would impact flow? All that ice would be subject to the same tidal forces as anything else and when the pull of the sun is the most, I would think it could act to lift considerable weight off the bottom of the glacier causing a reduction in friction and allowing it to slide.

  15. Let me guess; this is like that question; “Why is it that there is more matter than anti-matter ?” To which one would answer. “Well what dummy would call the surviving species Anti-matter ?”

    Why are electrons negative charge instead of positive charge ? if electrons were positive charge, the the direction of electron flow and the direction of current flow would be the same, instead of being opposite like it is now.

    Well we could rename the Juy-September quarter as Winter, and that would fix that NASA problem.

  16. Water acting as a lubricant would certainly be my thought.
    Here in Scotland in the Cairgorm mountains in one of the north facing winter climbing corries there is a well known feature – ‘The Great Slab’. This is a fairly featureless slabby area below the main cliffs but well above the corrie floor. It is about 400 ft. high and 800 ft. wide, lies at the relatively gentle angle of about 25 – 30 degrees and almost invariably produces a significant snow/ice avalanche in the late spring/ early summer ( and at other times in winter in heavy thaw conditions).
    The generally held belief is that the avalanching is the result of melt water running down the slab and releasing the snow/ice lying on the slab.
    (Re Drew Latta’s comment, it would be interesting to know whether or not the glacier is lying on bedrock. I am assuming that it is.)

  17. I have urged my fellow moose to not emigrate to Greenland without adequately educating themselves of the dangers involved in eating or stepping on floating or crushed yellow rubber.

  18. All they need now would be some towels, a sponge, some soap (and maybe a loofah) to have the makings of the perfect Arctic bathtime.

    I like this story; it could have come straight from the pages of Douglas Adams.

    Maybe we are aboard the Golgafrincham B Ark after all… :o)

  19. Speaking of quackery:

    Gore urges civil disobedience to stop coal plants

    NEW YORK (Reuters) – Nobel Peace Prize winner and environmental crusader Al Gore urged young people on Wednesday to engage in civil disobedience to stop the construction of coal plants without the ability to store carbon.

    The former U.S. vice president, whose climate change documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” won an Academy Award, told a philanthropic meeting in New York City that “the world has lost ground to the climate crisis.”

    “If you’re a young person looking at the future of this planet and looking at what is being done right now, and not done, I believe we have reached the stage where it is time for civil disobedience to prevent the construction of new coal plants that do not have carbon capture and sequestration,” Gore told the Clinton Global Initiative gathering to loud applause. … [more]

    http://www.reuters.com:80/article/environmentNews/idUSTRE48N7AA20080924?feedType=RSS&feedName=environmentNews&rpc=22&sp=true

  20. Gore is calling for civil disobedience? Maybe he should lead the charge. Why leave it to the young people? Maybe those young people should protest against 100′ houseboats too.

  21. “…it is time for civil disobedience to prevent the construction of new coal plants that do not have carbon capture and sequestration…”

    Brilliant.

    All new electrical power plants must come in pairs – one to produce electricity for people to use, and one to produce electricity for “carbon capture and sequestration.”

  22. Where i live oranges were once dumped into the harbour to investigate currents. Cheap and biodegradeable i suppose

  23. alexjc38: I’ll have to add an icebergs-and-duckies design to my list of desired desktop images, along with the icons from the preceding hammering-weather-patterns article.

  24. From the bottom of the NOAA page:

    NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun…

    Hmm-m

  25. From:
    Are the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets in Danger of Collapse?

    http://www.scienceandpolicy.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=396&Itemid=77

    “Flow is mainly by a process called creep, essentially the movement of atoms from one crystal to another.”

    “The flow of material in a solid crystalline state is known as creep, and there are three laws of creep relevant to the flow of ice:

    1. Creep is proportional to temperature.
    2. Creep is proportional to stress (essentially proportional to the weight of overlying ice)
    3. There is a minimum stress, called the yield stress, below which creep does not operate.

    All these laws have significant effects on glacier movement. Alpine glaciers differ significantly from the ice caps of Greenland and Antarctica, and care is needed to transfer knowledge of one kind of glacier to the other. Incidentally, the physics of ice as described here was worked out over 60 years ago by people such as Perutz (1940)”

  26. Verse 2:

    Rubber Duckie you’ve got class,
    You’ve got feathers on you butt.
    Rubber Duckie I’m awfully fond of you.
    Boop, boop, boop-boopie do.

    (It doesn’t rhyme, but my granddaughters love it.)

  27. Civil Disobedience? Gore? Hansen? Young People?
    – this is surely the actions of some desperate men!

    I mean, it shows that they feel they’ve failed to convince the adult population through the proper-channels, and are now having to resort to appealing to the idealistic, easily persuaded, easily manipulated minds of the young….
    – and the Civil Disobedience angle is just designed to appeal the young, green-types who like nothing better than protesting against the Big State or Big Business etc

  28. “labelled [sic]”

    It is only in the US version of English that “labelled” is spelt
    “labeled”. As the article referenced was from “The Sydney Morning Herald” where “labelled” is spelt “labelled”, the “[sic]” was unnecessary.

  29. Anthony

    In contrast to the monumental struggle you have to get any form of balance into discussions around climate science and being an expatriot Australian in the US, I thought I would share this bit of trivia … I see (assume maybe) you have “labelled” tagged with a [sic]. “Labelled” is the correct spelling of labeled in Australian English. So in the country of publication that would be correct.

    Reference: The Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary.

    English English has the same spelling – “Labelled”.

    Regards
    JE
    P.S. Great website/blog!

  30. Bill Hunter:”Hey, that’s the way hockey skates work! ”

    Skates also need a certain temperature range of the ice to work properly. Too cold and there is no melting and the blades stick. Too warm and the ice becomes too soft to support the blades on the layer of water. I wonder if this applies to glaciers too? Too warm underneath and instead of sliding along( or whatever the techincal term is) the ice becomes soft and mushy so it just sits there and melts.

  31. Smokey (09:15:29) :

    Couldn’t they just put a few GPS devices in crush proof containers? Then they could track them in real time. Also, those ducks better be biodegradable, just like the real thing. There’s already too much rubber duckie pollution.

    Note the bext-to-last quoted paragraph:

    That’s where the rubber ducks come in, along with a probe about the size of a football loaded with a GPS transmitter and instruments that can tell much about the glacier’s innards.

    One “football.” Not much, but infinitely better than nothing.

  32. Adams:

    “labelled [sic]”

    It is only in the US version of English that “labelled” is spelt
    “labeled”.

    Don’t you understand, Mr Adams?? The U.S. is the center of the universe.

    [i keed!]

  33. John Egan,

    “I see (assume maybe) you have “labelled” tagged with a [sic]. “Labelled” is the correct spelling of labeled in Australian English. So in the country of publication that would be correct.”

    Ah, Australia and the US… two friendly countries seperated by a common language!

  34. ducks = rubber
    rubber = polymer
    polymer = PET
    PET = Polyethylene Glycol Terephthalate
    PET + nH2O = n (ethylene glycol) + n(Terephthalic Acid)
    Ethylene glycol = antifreeze
    antifreeze = No ICE
    No ice= No bears
    No bears = More ducks
    More ducks = Less ice

  35. “Mr Behar said he hoped a fisherman or hunter might find a duck or the probe but so far nothing had turned up.”

    Perhaps they are frozen in the glacier? I am kust asking.

    Salmon Glacier in Alaska each year builds up water under the tongue until it lifts the ice and floods the entire valley sending icebergs all the way to the ocean some 20 miles away. There is a depression there that the ice has carved out stopping the glacier from advancing and allows the water to build up under it.

  36. Neilo (19:25:53) :
    ‘seperated’! In Australia we spell that word as ‘Separated’. So you are correct; We ARE seperated (ahum! Separated) by a common language.

  37. Ed Scott (08:23:55):
    A new threat caused by AGW, naturally.
    New global warming threat as scientists discover massive methane ‘time bomb’ under the Arctic seabed

    We must urge Russia to immediately relieve the danger by drilling and piping the methane to Europe, where it will be converted to the less potent greenhouse gas CO2.

    Smokey (17:58:18):
    . . . It is only in the US version of English that “labelled” is spelt “labeled”.

    “Labelled” is also the Canadian spelting, eh?

    Don’t you understand, Mr Adams?? The U.S.[sic] is the center of the universe.

    Another typo. You misspelt Texas.

  38. OT
    I notice that the latest mag and visible SOHO’s of the ‘sunspot’ show that the region has turned into faculae. Could this be the sensors’ angle of view?

  39. Neilo

    “Ah, Australia and the US… two friendly countries seperated by a common language!”

    That’s funny … thanks for the public humiliation :) I think I better stick to posting snail-mail!

    JE

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